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Introducing Covenant Theology [Paperback]

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Item Number 281473  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   204
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9" Width: 6.08" Height: 0.54"
Weight:   0.6 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Apr 1, 2009
Publisher   Baker Books
ISBN  080107195X  
EAN  9780801071959  

Availability  1 units.
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Item Description...
Since biblical times, history is replete with promises made and promises broken. Pastors and teachers know the power of the covenant, and they know that understanding the concept of covenant is crucial to understanding Scripture. They also know that covenant theology provides the foundation for core Christian beliefs and that covenants in their historical context hold significance even today. But to laypeople and new Christians, the eternal implications of "cutting" a covenant with God can be complicated. Now available in trade paper, Introducing Covenant Theology unwinds the intricacies of covenant theology, making the complex surprisingly simple and accessible to every reader. With keen understanding, careful scholarship, and insight, Michael Horton leads all believers toward a deeper understanding of crucial covenant concepts.

Publishers Description
Since biblical times, history is replete with promises made and promises broken. Pastors and teachers know the power of the covenant, and they know that understanding the concept of covenant is crucial to understanding Scripture. They also know that covenant theology provides the foundation for core Christian beliefs and that covenants in their historical context hold significance even today. But to laypeople and new Christians, the eternal implications of "cutting" a covenant with God can be complicated.
Now available in trade paper, "Introducing Covenant Theology "unwinds the intricacies of covenant theology, making the complex surprisingly simple and accessible to every reader. With keen understanding, careful scholarship, and insight, Michael Horton leads all believers toward a deeper understanding of crucial covenant concepts.

Buy Introducing Covenant Theology by Michael Scott Horton from our Christian Books store - isbn: 9780801071959 & 080107195X

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More About Michael Scott Horton

Michael Horton

Michael Horton (PhD, University of Coventry and Wycliffe Hall, Oxford) is the J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary in California. In addition to being the author of many popular and academic books, he is also the editor in chief of Modern Reformation magazine, a host of the White Horse Inn radio broadcast, and a minister in the United Reformed Churches.

Stephen J. Nichols (PhD, Westminster Theological Seminary) serves as the president of Reformation Bible College and chief academic officer of Ligonier Ministries. He is an editor of the Theologians on the Christian Life series and also hosts the weekly podcast 5 Minutes in Church History.

Justin Taylor (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher at Crossway. He has edited and contributed to several books including A God-Entranced Vision of All Things and Reclaiming the Center, and he blogs at Between Two Worlds--hosted by the Gospel Coalition.

Michael Horton has published or released items in the following series...
  1. 9marks: Building Healthy Churches
  2. Emergent Ys (Paperback)
  3. Theologians on the Christian Life

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Product Categories
1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Protestantism > Calvinist   [0  similar products]
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > General   [8607  similar products]

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Horton's book on covenant theology  May 29, 2008
i would say first of all that this is not to be read as a bedtime book. i had to be awake and alert to be thoughtful enough to follow. a bit complex, but thorough, at the start. book is easier to understand as it progresses. take time to read decent sized pieces of this little (100 Page) book that packs a wallop. let time assist the settling into the mind these little chunks of info and then proceed.
(if you are familiar with covenant theology already, then maybe the book is much easier for you to read cover to cover in one or two sittings. this was not the case for me. this is not my first brush with covenants as such, but my first with them as a system of.....
thank you Mr. Horton.
Don't trust this author  Dec 22, 2007
I purchased this book with high hopes, having read widely on the Covenants revealed in the Holy Bible.

Imagine my disappointment to find yet another tome more concerned with the author's respectability in the "academic community" than with edifying the Church of Christ.

But my disappointment changed to shock when I read this quote on page 192, "The law cannot do any more in sanctification than it did in justification". This he attributes to John Murray who was Professor of Systematic Theology at Westminster in Philadelphia until the mid-1960's. The reference is to Murray's Principles of Conduct, page 181f.

I know Murray's book and his views very well so I checked the edition quoted. The statement is not there. Worse the exact oposite of Horton's "quote" is there, page 182:

"It is symptomatic of a pattern of thought current in many evangelical circles that the idea of keeping the commandments of God is not consonant with the liberty and spontaneity of the Christian man, that keeping the law has its affinities with legalism and with the principle of works rather than with the principle of grace."

The whole tenor of Murray's life and teaching is the exact reverse of the fictional quotation given by Horton.

I contacted Horton by email in 2006, to give him the opportunity to correct this error. I contacted his publisher to achieve the same result. Neither did me the courtesy of replying or even acknowledging my concern.

But then both publisher and author are not interested in accuracy. That's legalistic!

If you cannot rely on a "professional" to quote his predecessor accurately, why would you trust him to teach you the Gospel of God?

John L Fox
Not Exactly an Introduction  Nov 26, 2007
I'd never read a book written by Michael Horton before this one, although I'd read a few shorter articles and was impressed with them. In addition, this book labels itself as an introduction to Covenant Theology, and understanding Covenant Theology is something I'm particularly interested in, so I was excited to receive this book for reviewing.

My opinion of the book after reading it is mixed. I loved the chapter examining the historical background of the biblical idea of covenant--the treaties and covenants as they existed already in the ancient Near East. I had many "Aha!" moments in this chapter as I recognized the different features of the ancient treaties in the Biblical covenants. Horton does an excellent job of explaining things clearly and simply in this chapter.

I also found the last chapter of the book, the one titled New Covenant Obedience, which considers the proper use of the law under the New Covenant, to be very thought provoking. Horton tackles the question of the usefulness of the law in the life of the believer. Does the law sanctify? Is it a guide for obedience? This chapter, too, was laid out in an understandable way that I found quite helpful.

And that brings me to the main problem I had with God of Promise: although it advertises itself as "introducing Covenant Theology", I would not call this an entry level book, but rather one that's more academically focused. There were large portions of it I had difficulty understanding, and I wouldn't consider myself a novice in my understanding of Covenant Theology. I did a lot of rereading, underlining and outlining as I read--these things were necessary for me to make it through this book--and yet there were places where I simply felt out of my league trying to follow Horton's argument. Perhaps that's because my version of Covenant Theology is more baptistic than Horton's, but I don't think that's the whole of it. Mostly, I think I needed to read a more basic book first (although I'm not sure there is one, either).

So if you're up to doing some real study, then I can recommend this book to you. As far as I know, it may be unique as a contemporary book that goes into depth on the system of Covenant Theology. I just wish it were more of a primer on the subject than it is.
Some good parts, but...  May 4, 2007
Review of "God of Promise" by Michael Horton

Most of this book is just a retelling of what others have written on the subject in recent years - including Horton's own book 'A Better Way', which has an excellent section on Covenant. Chapter six of this book ('Providence and Covenant') was interesting, but this book didn't really get interesting for me until Chapter eight ('Signs and Seals of the Covenant'); BTW, there are only nine chapters. In this last chapter he cuts down other views of covenant and the Lord's Supper and attempts to be a Calvin apologist and creates a wide gap between Zwingli and Calvin, but ignores Calvin's later, more Zwinglian/Memorial view (e.g., 'The Clear Exposition of Sound Doctrine Concerning the Holy Supper'). He is also fuzzy in places about the presence of Christ in the sacraments and does some painful theological back-flips to defend God/Christ being restricted to heaven, while stopping short of proclaiming a "Doctrine of the Real Absence." Additionally, like Calvin, he emphasizes the "communication" between Christ and the believer. Some other interesting points:
* Gives a false analogy of Christ's connection to the `rock in the desert' and the presence or relationship of Christ in the Lord's Supper.
* On p. 157 misrepresents Lutheran doctrine of what is "worthy reception" of the Lord's Supper (see Luther's Small Catechism).
* On page 153 the following quote is part of a good discussion: "The question therefore is not what the sacraments do to us, but what God does for us with them."
* Interesting discussion of the mystical relationship of the signs and the thing signified.
* Great discussion on the flawed approach of pietists to the Lord's Supper
* He states that in order to "receive" Christ in the Lord's Supper, one must `mystically ascend' to Christ - this is not supported anywhere by Scripture.
* He is confusing on the presence of Christ in the sacraments and slightly misrepresents Zwingli and Luther on the subject. He adds further confusion when on p. 168, after denying the presence of Christ in even a spiritual form in the Lord's Supper, writes, "The Reformed did not, therefore, deny the reality of the presence of Christ in the sacraments..."
To sum up, Horton's discussion of Covenant is well done and the later parts of the book have some very interesting sections worth reading (if you can get through the dull parts). Reformed, Lutheran, Catholic and others can all learn something from this book. However, he doesn't seem convinced himself that Calvin had it all right, so he tweaks Calvin a bit in a positive way and tweaks the other views in a negative way, thereby, in appearance, strengthening his arguments. Good book, but you have to carefully separate the wheat from the chaff.
A not so helpful anthology of Reformed Theologians on the covenant  Apr 2, 2007
Dr. Horton's book is an attempt to fill a much needed hole - a primer on confessionally Reformed Covenant Theology. However, in this reviewer's opinion, Horton has in some ways muddied the already murky waters of contemporary debate on the covenant. If one is looking for a faithful exposition of the covenant as reflected in the WCF, one needs to look elsewhere. There are several reasons for this assessment.

First, Horton often quotes writers out of context and contrary to their intended meaning. For example, on pg. 72 he quotes Geerhardus Vos: "First, God gace a promise-berith, then he imposed a law-berith. So Genesis intends it and so Stephen quotes it." In the context, Horton gives the reader the impression that Vos is describing the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants. But this is not what Vos meant, as can be seen from the broader context:

"In passing it may be remarked that in Stephen's speech, Acts 7:8, "the diatheke of circumcision" means nothing else but "the law, ordinance of circumcision." The reference is to Genesis 17, where the word berith has the same sense. The author of Genesis, who in chapter 15 used the term berith in the sense of a promise, here takes it as "law," "appointment." He did not mean that God in the same sense twice made a berith with the patriarch. First God gave a promise-berith, then he imposed a law-berith. So Genesis intends it, and so Stephen quotes it" (Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation, 179)

As can be clearly seen, Vos is simply describing the different significations of the word "covenant" in the Genesis narrative. Sometimes it refers to "law," and other times simply to "promise." It did not mean that God "in the same sense twice made a berith with the patriarch." But Horton uses the quote to support the distinction between the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants (promise vs. law), but Vos uses it to describe the two phases of the Abrahamic covenant.

On page 72 he quotes Vos again to support the notion that the Abrahamic covenant continues to underly the works-arrangement made at Sinai. But when one looks at the original context of Vos article, one fails to find any mention of a covenant of works at Sinai. Vos' point was to demonstrate that the basis of the Sinai covenant was the Abrahamic promise. They stand in organic continuity with one another, rather that in substantial contrast. Many other examples could be given. This reviewer would caution the reader to carefully check Horton's citations where they are able in order to certify that he is quoting according to their intended sense. Many times he provides a faithful representation, but other times he does not.

Second, Horton's formulation of the difference between the Mosaic and Abrahamic covenants seems difficult to harmonize with the Reformed confessions. For Horton, the new covenant is contrasted with the Mosaic covenant in that "...the new covenant entirely different covenant with an entirely different basis" (53). For him, "...the principle of the two covenants (works and grace) fundamentally differ" (88). The law-covenant made under Moses and the Abrahamic covenant differ in "form and substance" (176). Horton is clear, the Mosaic and Abrahamic administrations differ in principle, fundamentally, in both form and substance.

The Reformed confessions, however, present a quite different view. For the WCF there is one "covenant of grace" that was "differently administered in the time of the law and the time of the Gospel." For the WCF there are not "two covenants of grace differing substance, but one and the same, under varying dispensations." The time of "the Law" does not exclude the Mosaic period (note: "circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances"). Though there were several at the Assembly who argued for a view similar to Horton's (i.e. Smauel Bolton, following John Cameron - a precusor of Amyraldianism), but were rejected by the mainstream Reformed voices at the Assembly (and I would argue, the Confession itself). Horton says that the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants differ in substance, but the WCF says that they are one in substance.

Thirdly, there is some troubling language regarding the "merit" of Abraham and other Biblical figures. He quotes Meredith G. kline's statement with approval that "God was pleased to constitute Abraham's exemplary works as the meritorious ground for granting to Israel after the flesh the distinctive role of being formed as the typological kingdom, the matrix from which Christ should come" (45). Granted, Horton and Kline see the merit of Abraham pointing forward to Christ's merit. But the problem of how the sinful works of a sinful human creature could be in any sense the meritorious ground of reward is in this reviewers opinion irresolvable. The WCF clearly denies that any merit is attainable for sinful human creatures, either for salvation or justification (WCF 16:5) or for earthly blessings (WLC 193). Besides, the idea that Abraham's obedience could be imputed to his descendants sounds very much like the Roman Catholic idea of pleading for grace on the merits of the saints. Could a Jew living in the promised land, as he desires to receive the blessings of milk and honey, really pray, "Remember, O Lord, the merit of my father Abraham?" Granted, Horton would probably reject such a notion - but how could he do so in a way that is consistent with his doctrine of the merits of Abraham?

Many other things could be said (both positively and negatively) about this book. I don't mean to be overly harsh in my assessment. There are helpful comments in the book, particularly Horton's defense of a pre-fall covenant of works. But it will be difficult for a layperson who wants an introduction to classic confessional covenant theology to sort out the good from the not so good.

If one is able to find it, John Ball's Treatise on the Covenant of Grace is a very good and detailed treatment of the classic position on the covenant as summarized in the Westminster Assembly. I understand that an edition is being digitized and made available on the internet. A simple search will easily find it. One could also consult Anthony Burgess' "Vindication of the Law and the Covenants," and Samuel Rutherford's "The Covenant of Life Opened" for a summary of the mainstream confessional consensus.

My advice: save your money on Horton's book, and go back to the original sources for a consistent and faithful representation of classic, confessional, reformed covenant theology. Adherents to and opponents of (i.e. Dispensationalists, etc) classic covenant theology will find a better representation of it elsewhere.

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